Millions of people across the UK have seen the television adverts themed “Have you packed for Wales?” which features a few of the vast array of amazing activities, experiences and products available to enjoy on a holiday or short break in the country.
Amongst those who have packed for Wales is a representative of the popular mumsnet.com website who was highly impressed by what she found. So impressed in fact that the mumsnet voted an award-winning caravan and camping site in the heart of picturesque Mid Wales in the Top 10 UK sites for family camping holidays.
The review of Fforest Fields Caravan and Camping Park, located on the 500-acre Fforest Farm, Hundred House, near Builth Wells, says: “There is something for everyone here; little stream-side pitches or more open spaces, a gorgeous lake for swimming, the loveliest of owners and <shudders with joy> bathroom blocks that are marvellous beyond words. Logs, phone charging, all that important stuff – as well as the feel of a small site.”
The review was music to the years of the Barstow family, who first began welcoming campers and caravanners to their farm 25 years ago. The venture proved so successful that George and Katie Barstow decided to sell their cattle and sheep, let out their ground and focus their effort on the secluded 12 acre rural caravan and camping site.
The decision has paid dividends as the park has won a David Bellamy Gold Award for the last 15 years. The award, which bears the name of the famous environmental campaigner, is made annually to parks which demonstrate policies showing active concern for the environment.
Assisted by local nature groups and holidaymakers, assessors look at virtually every aspect of holiday park management – from the protection of plant and animal habitats to the efficient use of energy and recycling.
In addition, the park has achieved an AA five pennant, the top award and a Visit Wales four star rating in the Touring and Camping Park category.
George and Katie have been joined in the business by two of their children, Will and Jessie and Will’s wife Natalie. Jessie, a marketing specialist, has returned to the farm after working in London and Bath and combines her role on the campsite with running a marketing business.
The caravan and camping site has been carefully developed to provide generous grass and hardstanding pitches served by a circuit road. Landscaped with natural banks full of flowers and wildlife, the park has plenty of trees to provide shelter and screening.
Two lakes have been created – one for fishing and the other for leisure and recreation – and an award-winning reception block has been built with laundry, washing and toilet facilities and biomass heating system.
As glamping has taken off in the UK, the Barstows have introduced two bell tents, which can each sleep four people and they have two self-catering holiday cottages to let on the farm. The most recent venture is a small licensed café which has opened to provide visitors with “proper coffee”, local ale, homemade cakes and cream teas with the hope of encouraging them to sit and socialise in the reception block courtyard area.
Jessie said her family was delighted with the accolade from mumsnet and stressed that the park had evolved over the years in line with the changing needs of its visitors who travel from across the UK, Europe and sometimes even further afield.
“Visitors tell us that they like to feel they are free and getting back to nature by escaping to Fforest Fields,” she said. “We offer a chance for people to switch off from their nine to five jobs and come here to find some space. As the campsite is on the middle of our farm in beautiful Mid Wales, there are plenty of open spaces for them to explore.
“We often get told that our visitors actually do feel relaxed after a holiday here and we now have the second generations of families staying with us. It gives us so much pleasure to see people happy and enjoying time with loved ones and friends.
“We also like to give people a choice to experience camping without having to bring the kit and we think that glamping is here to stay. We are open to the campsite evolving in whichever way it works for our visitors.”
Fforest Fields is also able to accommodate major events, such as a round of the British Cycling MTB Cross-Country Series, organised by John Lloyd Racing in Builth Wells. Around 500 riders took part and an estimated 1,500 people attended the event, which was hosted on the campsite with challenging trails across the farm.
On busy weekends, the park can welcome around 400 visitors and the Royal Welsh Show at Llanelwedd, just four miles from the campsite, in July always brings in lots of business. However, the family is careful not to pack the campsite, as they appreciate that visitors value a chance to enjoy the space, peace and quiet of the beautiful Mid Wales countryside.
Fforest Fields Caravan and Camping Park is a member of MWT, an independent organisation representing around 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid and South Wales.